Just when you think you’ve seen all the menu compositions and designs, all the different takes on classic dishes and innovative new ideas, a place like the Blue Dog Bistro in Ocean Springs comes along.
The ambiance is subdued, lots of gray tones, but they are offset sharply by raw wood panels, benches and walls. The tables are white, shiny and industrial, and the seat cushions are brown, but the bar stools sport blue seats, it’s a nice and thoughtful touch.
Take a look at the menu and you can’t help but notice the whimsical categories of good dog, bad dog. It plays well, there is a puppy-dog theme in this place, but it isn’t overdone, and it doesn’t come off as cute. It’s a nice division, if you are trying to be healthy, you know exactly where to look for lunch (or breakfast).
Clair Deaton and I stopped by for lunch and decided a small plate or two, my normal fare, just wouldn’t do, so we doubled down and split four dishes. Housemade labneh was first, a strained Greek yogurt that is more cheese-like. It was topped with roasted tomato tapenade served with pistachio pesto crostini. I told you this menu was innovative! The tapenade is bright, zingy and is a grand counterpoint to the mild labneh. The whole dish comes off as a bright Mediterranean/Middle Eastern composition that is thoughtful but satisfying.
Next was a dish that can only be described as sublime. A baked avocado topped with a poached free-range egg and a wedge of lime. So simple, so subdued, but what a wonderful and creative pairing. The avocado is creamy and the egg yolk, with just a spritz of lime, was delicious, light and reasonably healthy.
If you have never had good, and I mean really good cochon de lait, then this dish is going to blow you away. It is perhaps my favorite way to serve pork, but labor- and time-intensive to make. But what makes this dish really pop is the jicama slaw it is served with. It’s all about contrast in flavors and texture. The jicama is crunchy and spicy, the pork smoky, tender and delicious. Add Gambino’s French bread (one of New Orleans most famous bakeries), and you have a real showstopper.
We ended with a classic dish, brie baked in a cast iron skillet and topped with roasted berry compote and toasted rounds of French bread for dipping. It is another very simple idea, but is just so very, very good.
I am going to be very honest with you, I simply love this place. Simplicity combined with a little innovation, great contrasts, things that make your tastebuds go snap, but are deeply satisfying at the same time. The Blue Dog Bistro is a welcomed innovation to the Ocean Springs food scene.
Blue Dog Bistro
Where: 801-A Government St., Ocean Springs
Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday-Sunday; closed Monday